The John Sterling conundrumBy
Few members of the Yankee organization generate as much vehement debate as John Sterling. The so-called radio voice of the Yankees is either beloved by those who enjoy his colorful descriptions of the game or hated by those who can’t stand his theatrics. As the old saying in New York goes, the Yanks play two games: the one on the field and the one John Sterling calls.
Over the last few years, we’ve debated John Sterling now and then. Most fans seem to view him as that mildly annoying guy that everyone tolerates but few truly embrace, and over the course of the season, it’s mostly a moot point. I’m not exposed to Sterling on a very regular basis, and neither are too many fans.
This week, though, Sterling aroused the ire of the sports media watchers who obsess over the Yankees. During the team’s appearance at the White House, Sterling, as the above picture shows, was front and center as President Obama toasted the Yankees. Afterwards, everyone was fairly appalled. Columinists Phil Mushnick and Neil Best along with Pinstripe Prophets’ blogger Charlie DeBiase all took Sterling to task for making Monday’s ceremony more about him than it should have been.
“Looking like a wax figure,” Mushnick wrote, “Sterling was posed and positioned so perfectly and prominently in the Yankees/President photos and videos you’d have recalled that he made the catch on Bill Mazeroski to end the 1960 World Series, then, in 1996, sold his playoff seats to Jeffrey Maier’s dad.”
While Best excused the team for not thinking clearly and simply arranging everyone in height order, the Newsweek media watcher urged the team to consider who is truly important to the team’s success. “I have no doubt they are valued members of the Yankees’ extended family,” he wrote. “But it was an awkward look, one players who were out of the frame could not have appreciated.”
Therein lies the rub. John Sterling is, for better or worse, a member of the Yanks’ extended family, but he comes across, according to many in the industry who have met him in various capacities, as thinking that his histrionics are responsible for the team’s success. If he didn’t have an outlandish home run call for the Yanks’ sluggers or if he didn’t make every fly ball “high….far…..and caught at the warning track,” the team wouldn’t win. But he’s not that important to the team. He’s just the guy that keeps people entertained while they’re driving in the car, sitting outside on a warm day or making a pit stop in the bathroom for a few pitches during some inning in the game.
Maybe that’s why I personally have never warmed up to Sterling. The game is about the guys on the field; it’s not about him. But on the radio and at the White House too, it’s always about him.
Edit by RAB: This post was updated at 11:41 p.m. with more information on sourcing.